I wiped the sweat from my brow and stared across the table amazed by the cool exterior and poise that she still wore. She had to know why I was here but she was a professional and her training had been thorough enough that even in the privacy of this second rate hotel room, she still kept up her act. She knew that even the walls had ears and that I was most likely wired.
She swirled the drink that I’d poured for her, and my eyes followed the ice cubes as she spoke, “You didn’t have to come all the way down here. I know you hate Havana.”
Don’t drink the drink.
“I don’t mind Havana,” I lied, “You’re here.”
Don’t drink the drink. Please.
“It’s Thanksgiving,” she said, “shouldn’t you be with your wife?”
I looked away. She was right, I should be with my wife. I could have avoided this, but it was her and avoiding the worst case scenario was something that I didn’t think I could live with. This wasn’t a job I could pass on to anyone else to do; it had to be me. No one else knew her the way that I knew her. She would want it this way.
“Trouble in paradise then,” she said and brought the glass just to her lips.
Please, no, don’t drink the drink
“Don’t be petty. You have no idea the trouble this trip will cause.”
“She doesn’t understand the business.”
She sat the glass on the table and the smear of her crimson lipstick on the rim of the glass captivated me in a past that could never be repeated. Please don’t drink the drink.
“She doesn’t know the business,” I said.
Silence stretched between us broken only by the sounds of birdsong and the distant hum of traffic and I wiped my brow again. Oh God! Don’t drink the drink.
“Neither do you, but I do. And it’s alright,” she whispered before taking a gulp of the drink.
Through blurry eyes, I watched the glass shatter against the hard concrete of the patio and her convulsions fade into the stillness of death. It was time for me to leave, yet I sat there and lit a cigarette. A warm breeze stirred her hair into her blank eyes. The crisis was over and all of the unpleasant secrets that it left were being purged.
I poured myself a drink, and sat across the table from her corpse. I swirled the ice cubes as I confessed all of my sins to her. She was right, she always had been right. I had jumped in over my head when I met her. She knew the business better than any of us.
I need to drink the drink.
I lifted the glass to my lips and accepted the darkness that knowledge of the business brought. My last thoughts weren’t of my family back home or thoughts of Thanksgiving, they were of hot nights in Havana and her.